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Birthplace of Bootstraps
by John Smith
Mar 20, 2011 | 707 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If I didn’t know better, I’d almost think Nevada is the place bootstraps were invented. Bootstraps, as in those things that you must pull yourself up by in order to get along in the world. If you’ve lived in Nevada long enough to unpack your duffel, you’ve no doubt heard that, around these parts, we’re supposedly all about the grand libertarian tradition of self-reliance and small government.

None of those nanny state solutions for complex social problems for us. It’s bare bones, brother, and you’re on your own. We don’t lavish taxpayer dollars on public schools, care for the poor, elderly or mentally ill.

And although we have gained an international reputation for the promotion of vice in the form of legalized casinos and licensed brothels, traditionally we’ve quibbled over whether to provide a modicum of care for those suckers who end up gambling fiends.

That’s just not in keeping with our libertarian nature, right? We gamble, drink, carouse and carry guns. We’re “the Old West in Modern Splendor,” as the promoters of the Hotel Last Frontier used to say. And no governor, especially the current one, would dream of fiddling with that formula.

Surely it was always this way. Nevada was, I have often read in popular publications, always a place apart. An outlaw among the in-laws, as it were. At least, that’s what I’ve often heard. But I’m here to say that there was a time a Nevada leader stepped up and warned us about the road we were headed down. And, no, I’m not talking about harlot-hatin’ Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader who spiced up his recent address to the state Legislature with a call to ban legalized brothels. To say Reid’s suggestion fell flat is the understatement of the young century.

Back in 1861, when Nevada was just breaking away from the Utah Territory, New Yorker James Nye arrived in Carson City to make the official proclamation. At Abe Curry’s hotel he cleared the dust from his throat and delivered a speech that must have rivaled Reid’s brothel bash for a lack of laughs.

He said in part, “The consequences attendant upon the almost universal habit or practice of carrying concealed or deadly weapons by the citizens of this Territory lead me to recommend that some law be passed making it a penal offense to carry them, fully believing that human life will be much safer by prohibiting the use than tolerating it.

“I also recommend that such laws be passed for the regulation of the sale of intoxicating liquors, as shall protect the public from the devastating influence of an unrestrained traffic, prohibiting its sale to persons under certain ages, and to persons of known intemperate habits, fully believing that the temporary gain to the vendor is a poor remuneration for the blasted hopes and crushed spirit of loving families.

“I particularly recommend that you pass stringent laws to prevent gambling. Of all the seductive vices extant, I regard that of gambling as the worst. It holds out allurements hard to be resisted. It captivates and ensnares the young, blunts all the moral sensibilities and ends in utter ruin. The thousand monuments that are reared along its pathway of ruin demand at your hands all the protection the law can give.”

Imagine what we would call Nye, future governor and U.S. Senator from Nevada, if he were on the political scene today?

Nanny stater! Socialist sympathizer!  He would be bad for business. He would be just the kind of politician Nevadans neither needed nor desired.

Spoilsport that he was, Nye recommended banning the sale of booze on Sunday. Something about keeping the Sabbath holy.

By then, I’m sure the crowd was restless and itching to slip away to the nearest saloon.    

John L. Smith writes a weekly column on rural Nevada. He also writes a daily column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at 702-383-0295 or at jsmith@reviewjournal.com
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